WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is moving to unseal the search warrant and itemized receipt of what was taken from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in his first public comments since the FBI search was conducted.
It is extraordinarily unusual for the Department of Justice to comment on an ongoing investigation, especially one involving such a high-profile person. Garland did not take questions from reporters. The motion to unseal the warrant was filed as Garland spoke. A judge must rule before the warrant can be unsealed.
“The department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said.
The FBI did not disclose the daylong search of Trump’s Florida estate. Trump announced it had occurred in a statement, referring to the court-sanctioned search as a “raid,” inflaming the far right, who have accused the FBI and Department of Justice of becoming politicized.
Trump will have the opportunity to contest making the warrant and list of recovered documents public — in its motion, the Department of Justice proposed giving the former president until Aug.25 to do so. Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart gave the department until 3 p.m. Eastern time Friday to report back as to whether Trump’s legal team plans to contest unsealing the warrant.
Trump’s legal team has acknowledged having in its possession the warrant and receipt since Monday’s search but has not provided specific detail on the contents of the documents.
The department’s motion states that it is moving to unseal the information primarily because Trump confirmed that the search had occurred and because his lawyers have spoken publicly to reporters about what the FBI sought.
“This matter plainly ‘concerns public officials or public concerns’ ... as it involves a law enforcement action taken at the property of the 45th President of the United States. The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the motion states.
Garland told reporters that the Department of Justice prefers to speak through legal filings rather than public statements.
For days, Republicans have decried the search as a “witch hunt” and demanded Garland provide more information about why a warrant was necessary to reclaim documents that Trump did not hand over to the National Archives upon leaving office in January 2021.